Terrorism vs Crime
Crime is easy to define as any behavior that is socially unacceptable and causes harm to an individual or a group of individuals. Theft, robbery, burglary, corruption, embezzlement, physical and mental violence, rape and killing are easier to categorize as crimes. But when it comes to terrorism, it becomes hard to have a universally acceptable definition. This difficulty to pinpoint an act as a terrorist act has been one of the major reasons why the world is grappling with a hundred headed monster called terrorism today. Though everyone accepts that terrorism is a kind of crime, a heinous one at that, the very fact that a terrorist for one is a martyr for others has made the situation very confusing. This article intends to differentiate between terrorism and crime and also to understand the relationship between the two concepts.
There are laws to deal with crimes in all societies and punishments are meted out to criminals in accordance with the severity of these crimes. But how does one decide on the punishment for a crime as big as killing hundreds of people with a single act of terrorism as has been the case in recent times. Terrorism is designed to create panic and to spread fear in the minds of a society. Terrorism is violence personified and a naked truth that has spread its tentacles in all parts of the world and is not confined to a country anymore.
If we look back into history and even before than in ancient civilizations, punishments for some serious crimes were brutal in nature and meted out to criminals in the open for all to see and take a lesson from them. This was done to strike fear in the minds of the people not to indulge in such crimes. It could be described as state terrorism but as it was meant for the overall good and betterment of the society it was accepted.
The modern system of crime and punishment is based upon a judicial system where a criminal pleads guilty and is sentenced to prison in accordance with his crime. But a terrorist, even when he is caught, never accepts guilty as in his views, what he has done is not wrong at all and done for the good of a section of the population. This takes us to the origin or roots of terrorism and also the difficulty of finding a universally acceptable definition of terrorism. Terrorism as an international menace is not new as many countries of the world are facing the wrath of terrorism for decades now.
It is easy to distinguish between a crime and an act of terrorism on grounds of guilt/innocence proceedings and sentencing procedures. An ordinary criminal, when he pleads guilty, is awarded a sentence in keeping with his crime and serves the sentence in prison. But terrorism works on the basis of an ideology, it is a belief that motivates a person or a group of individuals to engage in acts of terrorism as they believe that this is the only way to make their grievances heard or felt. If Sardar Bhagat Singh threw bombs in a legislative assembly, he was considered a terrorist by the British administration and tried accordingly, but for the entire Indian population, he was a hero, a martyr, a symbol of resistance to British oppression.
Similarly, though Sri Lankan government and the rest of the world saw LTTE as a terrorist outfit, the leaders and cadres of LTTE believed themselves as being freedom fighters against a tyrannical and oppressive regime that did not listen to the grievances of the Tamils living in Sri Lanka. The same can be said about insurgents engaged in terrorist acts in many other parts of the world including Kashmir, Israel, Middle East, Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Yemen and African countries. Oppression and suppression of minorities for a long time through discrimination and by denying them their basic human rights, or denying them a right of governance breeds hatred. It ultimately finds voice in terrorism as oppressed people feel it is the only way to get justice.
This was how the world perceived terrorism until 9/11 happened. The images of the twin towers collapsing and the subsequent loss of 3000 lives shook the entire world and made the world say aloud that enough is enough. Those who were against terrorism got united under the leadership of the US and the then US President even went to the extent of saying that countries that pledged support to war on terror were allies while those against it were enemies of the alliance. The world clearly got divided into those who were against terrorism and those who supported it.
The untiring efforts of the allies in the war on terror has resulted in many victories amidst sporadic acts of violence indulged in by terrorists but with the recent killing of Osama Bin laden by American forces in Pakistan clearly signal that the civilized society is winning its war on terror and there is no place for a heinous crime like terrorism in the civilized world. No ideology, no belief can justify killings of innocence people, and no religion allows anyone to indulge in such gruesome acts.
Terrorism vs Crime
• While terrorism as an international phenomenon is a more recent phenomenon, crime has always been there in societies.
• One can deal with criminals through a process of trials in courts and sentencing criminals into prison, it is hard to deal with terrorists as they have a strong motivation to indulge in heinous crimes and never plead guilty even when caught.
• Terrorists are also criminals but they commit crimes against humanity more than against individuals whereas ordinary criminals do it more for their own benefit.